Title: Diagon Burning (9/20)
SUMMARY: Chapter 9: Four postcards from Ulaanbaatar, two eel kebabs, a guest appearance by Lupin, and one corpse mauled by yaks.
DISCLAIMER: JKR and her publishers own the characters. We just play with them. Canon information, as always, comes from the Lexicon. Additional disclaimers at the end of the chapter.
Author notes: Huge thanks, as always, to reviewers and to emerald123 and Oli and co. for the betas. Naodrith and Alissa Raboin looked over earlier versions of the fic.
"ENTIRE AUROR FORCE DEPLOYED TO MONGOLIA," Hermione read off the front page of Monday's Daily Prophet.
"Well, that's shitty luck, isn't it?" Ron said.
"It's not funny, Ronald."
"I never said it was. I said it was shitty."
Harry frowned over his bacon. "Why are they going to Mongolia?"
Hermione hesitated for a moment, and then reluctantly, she passed him the paper. "They're looking for Sirius." Harry's face tightened. "I know, Harry, I know, but the Ministry doesn't know he's, you know—"
"Dead?" Harry provided dully, taking the paper.
"—since there wasn't a body."
Harry's expression became more lifeless as he skimmed the article. "Lucius Malfoy and SPEW have received credible information that wanted mass-murderer Sirius Black may be hiding in the Mongolian hinterlands," he read aloud.
Ron was reading over Harry's shoulder. "That blurry photo that's supposed to be Sirius? I think it's a yak."
"Of course it's a yak," Hermione said. "It doesn't matter whether or not they find Sirius in Mongolia, which we all know," she looked at Harry, who avoided her eyes, "they won't. What matters is that there won't be a single Auror left here."
"We still have the SPEW task corps to keep us safe," Harry read off the paper. "Handpicked and trained by Lucius Malfoy. When did he have time for that?"
"When he was taking over the bloody Ministry." Ron grimaced. "Dad says Malfoy's moved into the Auror offices full time now. Fudge demoted Kingsley last month and all the top jobs at the Bureau are filled by SPEW wizards. Malfoy's trying to get Fudge to take Dad's office off the Auror floor. He says SPEW needs the closet space."
Harry looked across the Great Hall to the Slytherin table. Abruptly, he stood up. "I'm going to go pick a fight with Draco Malfoy."
Hermione grabbed Harry by the wrist and yanked him back; even so, she couldn't bring herself to blame him. "Finish your bacon first."
"New bruise, Potter?" Malfoy sneered as he stuck his head over Ron's shoulder in Care of Magical Creatures. Hermione glanced at him and rolled her eyes dismissively. She opened her textbook and buried herself in a chapter the rest of the class wouldn't get to for another three months. Ron hoped Malfoy would take the hint. "Walked into another wall?"
Harry didn't even turn around and look at Malfoy. "Only when I fucked you up against it."
Ron started to laugh.
"That wasn't funny, Potter," Malfoy said.
"It was as funny as any of your jokes, Malfoy."
"I wouldn't fuck you if you were the last person alive, Potter. I don't fuck glasses."
"Then I guess I won't be meeting you in the fourth floor broom closet when everyone else is at dinner."
"Hopefully your hand will make up for that." Malfoy made a lewd gesture.
"Harry has better things to do than wank off in closets, Malfoy," Ron snapped.
"If you took a good long look, Weasley, you would find that he does not." Malfoy smirked. "Potter has been lurking in closets so long I'm surprised he ever comes out of them."
Harry rolled his eyes at Ron. "Try an insult that actually applies next time, Malfoy, instead of sticking me in one of your sick fantasies."
"My only fantasy with you, Potter, involves your face and my fist."
Harry pointed to his black eye. "Too bad. The wall beat you to it. Try not to cry about it."
"I broke your nose. You should be the one crying."
"I'll break your sphincter. Then you'll cry."
"You'll cry all alone in the fourth floor broom closet when I don't show."
"Cry with relief—that I don't have to see your ugly face."
"Crying's for girls," Malfoy declared. At that moment, Hagrid burst into uncontrollable sobs. Bellowing something that sounded like, "Gra-Gra-Grawp!" he rushed out of the lesson.
The Slytherins started to laugh. Harry nodded to Ron and they ran after Hagrid. Hermione pulled herself away from the textbook and joined them.
They spent the rest of the afternoon listening to Hagrid moan over a plate of his homemade rock cakes that none of them dared eat.
Ron much preferred it to Malfoy.
"And Creevey misses the Bludger—in my years at Hogwarts I haven't seen a team so…er…uncoordinated. I'm sure it's just a phase, guys. I have faith you can hit and catch things."
Pansy smiled at Finnegan's commentary. "I don't, but somehow it isn't bothering me."
"You look so much like Lucius when you do that," she said. "It's hot."
"The expression or my father?" Draco didn't think he really wanted to know the answer.
"A great block by Weasley at Keeper! That's right, Ron, show them like you did last year—wait, Brocklehurst snatches the Quaffle from Sloper, no, back to Sloper, to Kirke, to Sloper, to—Creevey, would you watch what you're doing? One of the Creeveys just whacked Sloper on the head! C'mon, Creevey, did you think he was a Bludger?"
Pansy considered. "Both. But especially your father. Ever since the night this summer when he asked me for sexual favors I can't stop thinking about him."
"That's mildly disturbing," Draco told her.
"Well, it's true. I hear he's under consideration for Witch Weekly's Sexiest Bachelor."
"He's not a bachelor."
She grinned. "Who cares? Lucius makes wheelchairs look sexy."
"Weasley with the Quaffle, dodges a Bludger hit DIRECTLY AT HER HEAD by one of the Creeveys—great move, Ginny! She shoots, and it's…blocked by Boot at Keeper. Great shot by Weasley, though. It'll go in next time!"
"I wasn't aware that you and my father were on a first name basis."
"Draco, darling, I never sleep with anyone with whom I'm not on a first name basis."
"I know, but that sounded so good and pure and Gryffindor."
"No. A Gryffindor would never hold hands with someone who they weren't on a first name basis with."
"Do you speak from experience, Draco?"
He just smirked at her.
"When I dump you for your father, you may have to bag a few Gryffindors."
"What's going on by the Ravenclaw goalposts? The Creevey brothers are—are they arguing? Save it for later, kids, there's a game going on! Turpin and Goldstein pass the Quaffle back and forth by the Gryffindor goalposts, Turpin moves towards the right goal—come on, Ron, you can block it! ...No, I guess you can't."
"I'm sorry, Pansy, but my father would never have you. You're not blond enough."
"I'll charm my hair."
He wrapped one of her strands around his finger. "You'd look terrible as a blonde. I think I would have to stop fucking you."
Pansy took her hair from Draco's hand and stared at it. Her brow furrowed. "Maybe I should charm my hair red."
"Wrong answer." Draco said. "If I wanted to fuck a Weasley, I would."
Pansy made a face. "Aren't you related to the Weasleys? Incest is always the wrong answer, Draco."
"I don't believe it, the Creeveys are still arguing! The Ravenclaw Beaters aren't wasting any time—come on, guys, Potter almost got knocked out back there! Weasley passes to Kirke who passes to Sloper—one of the Creeveys just whacked the other on the head—Quaffle back to Kirke, to Sloper, to, surprise, surprise, Kirke—"
"I can assure you that we are not related." Draco paused. "Not very related, anyway," he amended. "It's all through the Blacks and extremely distant."
"That's really unfortunate, isn't it, as you're also sort of related to Potter."
"Sirius Black isn't a relative of mine, if that's what you mean. His mother disowned him when she heard he was a Gryffindor."
"And Potter goes into a vertical dive! Has he seen the Snitch? He's certainly acting like it! Go get it, Harry! He's reaching out, grabbing for it—no, he's grabbing a Creevey, who seems to have fallen off his broom—"
"He's still Potter's godfather, which gives you a sort-of family relation."
"Pansy, you're being disgusting. I will stop associating with you if you don't desist."
"That's okay," Pansy said, "because I'll still have Lucius."
"Really, Pansy, why can't you fantasize about Professor Avery like the other girls?"
"Oh, I did, but the fantasy ended with me leaving my underwear in his office, which I already did. And don't you want to hear about how your father screams when he—"
Someone burst out laughing in the row behind them, stopping Pansy from finishing that thought. Thank Merlin. He and Pansy both turned. Theodore Nott was sitting behind them, moving from uproarious laughter into hiccoughing giggles.
"I'm sorry, Parkinson, but that's really just too good."
"Avery's office? Yes, I know."
"No, no…" Apparently he wasn't able to stop laughing.
Pansy wasn't smiling. "What do you mean, then, Nott?"
"You're a fool if you think Lucius Malfoy would want anything to do with a Newblood like you."
"I think I'm a better judge of what Malfoys do and do not want, Nott," Draco said coldly.
Nott sniffed at Pansy. "Your judgment is obviously impaired, Malfoy."
"I'm not a Newblood, Nott," Pansy said. "I don't have to defend myself to you."
"Then why are you doing it?" he sneered.
"Because the information's taking so long to get through your thick skull," Draco said. Then, for emphasis, he added, "You little wanker."
"A Newblood's daughter is still a Newblood," Nott hissed.
"Believe me," Draco said, "Pansy's as much a pureblood as I am. More so than you, I'd say."
"The Notts have never associated with Mudbloods," Nott snapped, with a disdainful sneer at Pansy. "And we won't tolerate those who pretend that time will undo a taint."
"Frankly, Nott, I won't tolerate your face." Draco snapped his fingers and Crabbe and Goyle, sitting a few rows ahead of them and eating eel kebabs, grunted to attention. They each grabbed Nott by a shoulder and dragged him off in the general direction of the broom shed.
Nott started to squeal. Draco felt extraordinarily pleased. His euphoria lasted for about four minutes, until Potter caught the Snitch.
When Harry got the owl from Lupin asking to meet him in the Common Room fire that Friday at midnight, he supposed Lupin wanted to update him on what the Order was doing. There was no mention of Ron or Hermione in the letter but Harry told them about the meeting anyway. Lupin—and the rest of the Order, for that matter—knew where he stood with them. So Harry didn't go out at his usual time, but instead waited in the Common Room with Ron and Hermione. It slowly emptied as the clock struck midnight. On cue, Lupin's head popped into the fire.
"Harry!" he said. "…and Ron and Hermione. Hi. I didn't know all three of you were going to be here."
Harry opened his mouth to tell Lupin that the Order could get over it, anything they told him would go to Hermione and Ron, too, but Hermione was quicker.
"We were actually just going to bed, weren't we, Ron?" Hermione said with a meaningful glance in Ron's direction.
Harry couldn't for the life of him have said what Hermione meant by that look. Apparently, Ron didn't either. "No, we weren't." Ron said.
"Aren't you tired, Ron?" Hermione snapped.
"Er, no?" Ron blinked.
It was obviously the wrong answer. "I want to show you something in your dorm, then." She pointed at the stairs. "Wait for me." Looking confused, Ron went. Hermione bent close to Harry. "If you want to talk to Professor Lupin about what's been going on in your life, and, you know, things that are happening with people who are related to Ron, I think you should, Harry," she said.
Harry blinked. "Er, okay?"
"Because, you should talk to somebody," Hermione said, and squeezed his arm in what she probably thought was a supportive gesture.
"Thanks," Harry said, feeling embarrassed. "Goodnight."
Ron and Hermione disappeared upstairs.
"I was going to tell you that you could bugger off if you wouldn't let them stay," Harry said, "but erm."
"You can tell Ron and Hermione anything I say, Harry," Lupin said. "Not that you need me to tell you that to do it. But I really wanted to talk to you."
"How's the school year going?"
"It's going," Harry said. "Snape hasn't managed to expel me yet."
"You know, usually I try to encourage students to refer to their teachers as Professor, but I doubt it would do much good to tell you to call him Professor Snape."
"It wouldn't," Harry agreed.
"So how's everything else? Hogsmeade weekend this Saturday, I've heard. You'll be going, won't you?"
That was the first Harry had heard of it. "Suppose so."
"What about Quidditch?"
"We lost to Slytherin 170-160 a few weeks ago."
"I caught the Snitch," Harry said. He really didn't want to tell Lupin the whole story, so he pressed on, "What have you been doing? Stuff with the Order?"
"Well, you know I can't tell you everything, Harry, but—"
"Yeah. That's okay. Did you hear about the Aurors being sent to Mongolia?"
Lupin suddenly looked uncomfortable. "Erm, yes, I did hear something."
"What are they doing in Mongolia?"
Lupin swallowed. "Nothing."
"Nothing you're going to tell me or just plain nothing?"
"Nothing of interest."
"I'm asking. I'm interested. You can't hide things from me forever."
"Please believe me, Harry, when I say what I'm hiding—which is nothing, incidentally—is for your own good. You really don't want to know."
"I'm not a child anymore."
"I know that."
"Sirius would have told me."
"Don't play that card with me, Harry."
Harry glared at him. "I need to know."
"Outside of the yak breeding community, Harry, absolutely nothing is going on in Mongolia."
"You have to have heard something."
"Well, yes," Lupin said, "that's exactly the problem."
"What have you heard?"
"Listen to me very carefully, Harry, and hear what I'm saying: you really don't want any part of this."
Was there anything that awful happening in Mongolia? Harry doubted it. All he knew about the place was that it was a long way away and cold.
"You already said that, and I already told you that I can handle it," Harry said impatiently. "Tell me what's going on."
"Just remember later, when you're scarred for life, that you asked—no, begged—for this." Lupin's head disappeared from the fire.
He returned a second later carrying a stack of what looked like postcards.
"It starts off fairly tame," he said, picking up the first one and beginning to read. The picture on the front showed a large yellow lump of hair that Harry guessed was a yak.
"Dear Remus," he read, "We just arrived. I'm mailing this from the Ulaanbaatar Floo port. SPEW orders are that we must split up and head off into the mountains in search of Sirius. I'd rather look for you instead.
"Thinking of you, Tonks."
Harry felt angrier than he had when he had first read the Prophet article about Mongolia. "SPEW is giving the Aurors orders?"
"Lucius Malfoy and SPEW absorbed the Auror Bureau at the beginning of the fall," Lupin said. "But honestly, Harry, that's probably the least disturbing thing about these postcards." He picked up the next one. It showed an angry-looking man with a long mustache and a big sword riding either a yak or a shag carpet, Harry couldn't decide which.
"Dear Remus, my favorite canine,
"SPEW told us that Sirius would probably be disguised as a local, or possibly a yak, but so far no luck finding him. The locals look like yaks—maybe that's why it's so hard to tell them apart? You're the only man I know who looks so good covered in that much fur.
"Missing you and your wolfish smile, Tonks."
Harry looked at Lupin. "It gets worse?"
Lupin looked grim. "We haven't even started yet."
He pulled out the next postcard, which featured, surprisingly, a yak, and an old-looking building, undoubtedly of local importance.
"The weather is cold, but my heart warms at the thought of you. I felt alone in my tent last night until I heard wolves howling in the distance and I thought more about you. I think about you all the time. I hope you feel the same way—I think we have this mutual animal attraction thing.
Harry blinked. "She signed it with a growl."
Lupin picked up the next-to-last postcard. The cover was charmed to show three stick figures embracing. One was a yak, the second unmistakable with purple spiky hair, and the other had pointy ears and fangs. Little pink hearts danced around the card. "On top of her notable artistic talent," Lupin remarked dryly, "she apparently writes poetry."
"I only wish."
Harry looked at the card carefully. "Is she trying to suggest a threesome with a yak?"
"Even that would be better than her poetry. Listen to this:
"My dearest muse,
"I've been thinking about you every waking moment. You have inspired me to become a poet. I awoke from a steaming dream about you and wrote this poem. It is called "O Wolfman, My Wolfman."
"O Wolfman, My Wolfman
Your eyes are yellow
Each time I see your furry beard
It makes me want to bellow."
"You don't have a beard," Harry said.
"I know." He continued reading.
"O Wolfman, My Wolfman
My soul within me throbs
Whenever you are gone
I am filled with sobs.
"O Wolfman, My Wolfman
The heart within me groans
I think of you at night
And make many little moans.
"O Wolfman, My Wolfman
I hope you don't think me piggy
But every time I see your snout
I just want to get jiggy!
"I know you cannot reply to these postcards from my soul, but I can hear the wolves' voices on the wind and I imagine your loving howls amidst their chorus. I cannot wait to join with you in howling our love for one another.
Harry was utterly speechless. "She didn't write another." It was more a plea than a statement.
Lupin, remarkably calm for his ordeal, picked up the last card. "This came in the mail today."
"When Tonks told me she was venturing off into the Altai Mountains to bond with the wolves, I thought she was joking. I regret to inform you that she has been killed in an avalanche. We recovered her body a little less than an hour ago and although it has been partially eaten by wild yaks, it is unmistakably Tonks."
"I thought yaks were herbivores," Harry cut in.
"I suppose they made an exception," Lupin said, before continuing with the letter. "You may not know this, but Tonks recently asked me to act as a witness to her change of will. She named you as her sole inheritor and chief executor of her estate. All of her property now goes to you.
"I don't know what was going on between the two of you, but I express my deepest regrets at your loss. I hope Tonks is in a better place. That isn't a particularly hard request after Mongolia.
"Sincerely, Kingsley Shacklebolt."
Harry didn't know how to respond. "That's...really unfortunate," he said lamely.
"Yeah," Lupin said.
Harry almost didn't want to ask, but, "Did you hear anything more?"
Lupin handed him another piece of paper. "Her will came in the mail a few hours later."
Harry scanned the will. "She left you her house?"
"And her entire life savings. Which is actually embarrassingly large, but then again, she was a Black."
"Is the house nice?"
"No. Nasty little place in Surrey."
"You've been there?" Harry asked.
"I went there with Sirius once," Lupin said. "It was an old Black family hunting lodge."
Harry blinked. "What is there to hunt in Surrey?"
"Muggles," Lupin said.
"Oh," Harry replied. "That's, uh—"
"I was going to say just the sort of thing the Blacks would do, but yeah, same idea."
"Don't understate it, Harry."
"Are you, um, when's the funeral?"
"Next Tuesday," Lupin said. "At the Ministry chapel."
"There's a Ministry chapel?"
"It's in the basement of Westminster Abbey," Lupin said. "Nobody notices. The Muggles think it's a wine cellar."
"Oh," Harry said. "Clever." He thought for a second. "Do churches have wine cellars?"
"I don't think so." Lupin said. "Except maybe in Ireland."
"I'm sorry about Tonks," Harry said. "Even though she stalked you."
"Yes," Lupin said.
"And sent you scary postcards."
"Can I have the Wolfman one to show Ron?"
"Just checking," Harry said. "Are you going to live in Tonks's house?"
"I don't think so," Lupin replied. "It's just like Grimmauld Place, only with more house-elf heads mounted on the walls. When they ran out of Muggles, the Blacks hunted their house elves."
"Oh," Harry said. "Hadn't they heard of deer?"
"Apparently not," Lupin said. "And anyway, I'm afraid of leaving Kreacher alone in Grimmauld place. I caught him trying to saw his own head off with the coffee grinder the other day, just so he can get it mounted on a plaque. He's getting tired of waiting to die."
"Just kill the thing already. That would make everyone happier, including it," Harry suggested. "Actually, wait till Christmas break and I'll kill Kreacher myself."
"I hope you know I do not endorse these violent impulses, Harry," Lupin said with a fond smile.
They sat there for a few moments, companionably quiet. The clock struck one. "I should be going," Lupin said.
"I'd say have fun at the funeral, but um," Harry trailed off. "Tell Tonks's family I'm sorry."
"I'll keep you in mind," Lupin said, and popped out.
Harry walked up to the dormitory and went to bed earlier than he had in a week.